The Biden education department has abruptly scrapped its National Parents and Families Engagement Council following a lawsuit against Education Secretary Miguel Cardona by parental rights organizations who argued the council’s membership consisted of leftist activists and Democrat donors.
A statement reported by The74 said the education department “has decided to not move forward with the National Parents and Families Engagement Council.”
“The Department will continue connecting with individual parents and families across the country, including through townhalls, and providing parents and families with a wide array of tools and resources to use to support our students,” it added.
Nicole Neily, president of Parents Defending Education, one of the organizations bringing the lawsuit, said the sudden disbanding of the Council is significant:
The fact that the Biden Administration chose to shut down its virtue-signaling parents council – rather than add any intellectual diversity – speaks volumes. Students do best when their families are involved in their education – and it should be a goal at the federal, state, and local level to bring us into the process, not to shut us out when our perspectives and values differ. Parents will not be used as window dressing to advance radical policies, and we will do everything in our power to protect and defend our children from those who would do them harm.
VICTORY FOR PARENTS! Biden Administration disbands fake ‘parents council’ following Parents Defending Education, @America1stLegal, @fightforschools lawsuit#DefendingEd President @nickineily: pic.twitter.com/I2pUi1YJDU
— Parents Defending Education (@DefendingEd) December 5, 2022
The announcement comes following the release of a letter Friday by Senator Bill Cassidy (R-LA) and several of his Republican colleagues to Cardona, challenging him over the council that was supposedly created to back parent and family “engagement,” but was packed, instead, with leftist political activists, including those who support Critical Race Theory (CRT) in public schools.
In the letter, the GOP senators expressed to Cardona their concern about the council’s “hyper partisan makeup,” with “representatives of organizations that have little to no interaction at the local level, and support anti-school choice policies,” a press release from Cassidy’s office stated.
“It is troubling that you seem to have forgotten to include any actual families or local level officials in it,” the letter asserted. “Instead, the Department has filled the Council with organizations that have limited, if any, engagement at the local level. Most, if not all, of these organizations are liberal advocacy groups that seek to nationalize our education systems into a one-size-fits-all system while eliminating parental choice and leaving the individual needs of our students behind.”
The Biden administration seems to have forgotten to include any actual families or parents on their National Parents and Families Engagement Council.
— U.S. Senator Bill Cassidy, M.D. (@SenBillCassidy) December 2, 2022
The senators added the lawsuit filed against the council alleged most of the top executives of the 14 represented member organizations donated to the Biden campaign and those of other Democrats:
… a recent lawsuit against the Council alleges that the highest-ranking executives for eleven of the fourteen represented organizations donated to President Biden, Democratic lawmakers, Democratic fundraisers, or other entities affiliated with Democrats. Additionally, the former director of one of the organizations was appointed to serve in the Department, and one even hosted President Biden at its annual convention. The uniformly partisan members of the Council demonstrate this administration’s commitment to putting the interest of unions, teachers, non-education associations, and the radical left above students and parents,” continued the senators.
The letter indicated several organizations represented on the council, including the National Parents Union (NPU), support CRT.
“[I]ts director has defended the September 29, 2021, letter written by the National School Board Association calling certain parents ‘domestic terrorists,’” the letter observed, and added, “The Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates (COPAA) sued to maintain mask mandates in Virginia schools.”
In April 2021, United States Parents Involved in Education (USPIE), an organization dedicated to the end of federal involvement in education, wrote about the differences between its organization and NPU:
USPIE believes children are very important, but the core of the agenda is the family where parents are the first and most important educators of their children. Parents are not a resource to be used or corralled into a union, but individuals free to act as they determine appropriate. USPIE would never “reach around” parents to access children or make them the target of advocacy. And USPIE firmly believes in the sanctity of the family and would never advocate for our coalition to disrupt the traditional role of families as NPU does.
A video on the NPU website shows the organization focuses on equity and economic justice, and refers to schools as continuing the “endless cycle of generational institutional racism.”
Another political organization with representation on the council is National Action Network, led by leftist activist Al Sharpton.
Cassidy and the Republican senators who signed the letter to Cardona demanded answers to questions, including how membership on the council was determined, the council’s goals, and names of representatives, with a deadline for response of January 3, 2023. The senators also requested documents and communications created by the council.
The education department launched the National Parents and Families Engagement Council in June, stating its purpose was to “facilitate strong and effective relationships between schools and parents, families and caregivers.”
“Parents are a child’s first teachers, and there’s no one better equipped to work with schools and educators to identify what students need to recover,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona.
The council was launched following the firestorm over a letter solicited by Cardona from the National School Boards Association that likened parents protesting CRT, gender ideology, and mask mandates to domestic terrorists.
The education department stated the council “consists of parent, family, or caregiver representatives from national organizations that will work with the Department to identify constructive ways to help families engage at the local level.”
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Susan Berry, PhD is national education editor at The Star News Network. Email tips to [email protected].
Photo “Miguel Cardona” by The White House. Background Photo “Courtroom” by Karen Neoh. CC BY 2.0.